Brief personal opening here-catered to agent.
An ancient evil looms over Soledad Mendoza, although she just doesn't know it. Bonus points for naming your protagonists (I hope) in your opening line, but otherwise this is vague and a bit cliche. Honestly, vague language is the main problem I see with queries that just don't quite work. More on that in a minute. For thirty years the widowed English professor has lived in the sleepy city of Charleston, West Virginia. Good. See how this kind of very specific language works so much better? We still don't have great sense of CHARACTER, but we have some, and we certainly have a clear idea of her situation. Her boredom and loneliness are often drowned in nightly jiggers of scotch and lesson plans. This isn't exactly fair. You can't mention Scotch in a query and not have me love it. But all this changes when her father's sudden death plunges her into a supernatural war, and a secret family history that began in a Mayan jungle during the sixteenth-century. Whoa, okay.
So, as opening paragraphs go, this is really uneven. It starts out vague, and with little sense of CHARACTER, but then slowly starts to improve, revealing at least a specific situation, and a character of good taste, if boring evenings, and then it kind of goes nuts.
You are also lacking a consistent sense of voice and tone. Up until the final sentence of this paragraph, it sounds like this book will be a quiet literary character study of a lonely widowed English professor. You know, something almost Franzen-esque, but then suddenly at the end here, you reveal a much more exciting story, with loads of potential conflict brought on by an unique and fascinating inciting incident. You don't want to surprise readers like this. Try to see if you can work that kind of supernatural thriller type tone into your opening lines as well.
Enter U.S. Senator Earl Edmondson Ugh. Not a query level issue so much as a story level one, but alliteration in character names always makes me cringe a little—a friend of her late father and a key power player in this war. His pact with a malevolent god all but assures the senator's ascendance to the presidency. However, his unholy aspirations are threatened when he discovers Soledad is set to inherit the Ouroboros amulet—a mystical weapon of indescribable power.
Hmm. This is getting kind of cool, but I have to say the dichotomy between how this query starts out (contemporary, normal, realistic world) and where it is now still feels jarring. Obviously all stories, even paranormal ones, start out in a somewhat comfortable beginning before the STORY/CONFLICT/PLOT begins, but that doesn't mean you want the query to work that way.
Just as her enemies are converging, in walks a Mayan winged-god, Whoa. Um ... okay. First, it should be "winged Mayan god." Unless winged-god is some kind of specific god-type in the world of your story, those adjectives are out of order. But otherwise, this is pretty cool. I hope he's hot. who may be her salvation or her damnation. He claims to have been her family's protector for centuries, but Soledad soon realizes she is merely a pawn in the god's supernatural game of treachery. As she struggles with her new found responsibility, Soledad must accept her fate and use the amulet against Edmondson if she hopes to stop him from taking over the White House. There's just one problem, her father took the weapon's location to his grave.
Oh. She doesn't even have it yet? Damn. That sucks.
Okay, so ... this query has a lot of cool elements. You actually end with a pretty good sense of a sadistic CHOICE. It could be a little clearer, but it's not bad. I won't nitpick this paragraph, but will try to cover the big picture in my summary.
This is actually pretty good housekeeping, brief and to the point.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Okay, so in summary, this query has a lot of the elements that make queries great: clear CONFLICT, a sense of a tough CHOICE to be made, specific scenarios and situations, but it isn't quite gelling for me as is.
The biggest problem is your opening. "Widowed," "English professor," "sleepy city," these are all things that happen to Soledad, or positions she holds, are settings she is in. Drinking Scotch while being bored and lonely grading papers at night is really the only sense of CHARACTER we get for your protagonist.
That is not enough!
The most important thing in any query letter (frankly, in any STORY) is CHARACTER. If we don't care about your character, and sympathize with her as a person, we're not going to care (or at least not as much) about what happens to her or whether she succeeds at whatever she's trying to accomplish.
CONFLICT and CHOICE are great, and they are important, and you even cover them pretty well here, but we've got almost no sense of who Soledad is before her story starts. Sure, we can infer some things from her situation, and by the fact that she reacts to it by drinking alone with her boredom, but we need more, and we need it right up front in this query.
What do you all think? Any other suggestions?